“Reflections of My Life”

For as long as I can remember, beginning before my age reached double digits, I have been emotionally connected to the process of aging, the passing of time.  As a kid, I loved Puff, the Magic Dragon, but it always made me sad that Puff lost his friend. When my friend, Brian, died when we were 19, I could no longer listen to Puff until I was in my 50s. The first time I heard it after decades of musical quarantine, it made me cry again. Passing time and its changes get to me.

At 16, I wrote a poem about a man who was aging. It made my dad cry. He was 60 at the time. I admit to being strongly influenced by Neil Young’s Old Man that had come out about that time on his Harvest album. I included the poem in my book, Daddin’:  The Verb of Being a Dad. I am now past the age dad was when the poem touched him. The words surface in my memory as I feel the effects of time:  “Old man, can you manage / With that cane in your hand? / Can you continue watching / The dropping of the sand?” I don’t need a cane, but changes are afoot for my future years.

My mom told me about a pastor who said, “You are now what I once was.” He was referring to conversations with people younger than oneself. I try to remember his poignant message whenever listening to, or conversing with, younger folks.

A beautiful song from the late 1960s pondered Reflections of My Life. The thusly named song by Marmalade did quite well here and “across the pond.” Its creator, Dean Ford, had a life that made reality of his lyrics. He died this past December from Parkinson’s. I thought of my poem as I watched the beautiful tribute video to him that includes clips of him performing his famous song “then” and “now.” Though he played the song thousands of times, even the renditions from late in his life were shared with genuine gentleness and wisdom. The exuberance of his sharing 50 years prior was replaced with a kind, wise, knowing expression. Youth’s insights had become age’s wisdom.

I think of my high school years with Chuck playing acoustic guitar for a gym full of high school students. Phil did the same. I hope they look back at those days with amusement and appreciation. We all have past experiences that reflect the things that mattered to us then and influenced who we are now.

Life is for the living. Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Examining is one thing; performing a full-on autopsy of one’s life is quite another. I believe the former is part of the growth process; the latter, a process of over-analysis, can paralyze. Autopsies are not performed on the living.

Our past experiences provide great wisdom and insights, as well as shape who we are. Aging, like parenting, is not for the weak or cowardly, but in those moments when you pause for reflections of your life, allow yourself to appreciate the abundance, the blessings and the way you’ve touched others in your life. Reflect. Smile. Keep going.

 

 

Here is the poem that I wrote about the old man. I have a dream of it being put to music someday.

Old man can you manage

With that cane in your hand?

Can you continue watching

The dropping of the sand?

 

Do memories plague you

Of the days in the street?

Do memories haunt you

Of the people you did meet?

 

So slow to walk

And feeble to stand.

Old man do you need help?

Can I lend you my hand?

 

Those arms that hang and shake so

Were once trunks of power

Does the loss bother you?

Has your life become sour?

 

Your steps are now in inches

Yesterday they were in miles

How come?  What is it old man

That continues to bring you smiles?

 

Old man you make us wonder

Is old age such a sin?

Old man my eyes water for you

But, remember, here’s my hand.

 

(c) Dion McInnis

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